Athletes In the Clear, and Not

Listen to this 'Talk of the Nation' topic

Man, was Marion Jones fun to watch. I mean, she literally looked like a blue ribbon of speed, zooming around that track. Add to that her natural grace, and her dimples; I mean, this was a woman all of America had a crush on. Which is why her fall from that grace last week, was so heartbreaking. It also raises the issue of why athletes — especially athletes that are already so accomplished — feel they must cheat. The "everybody's doing it" excuse is both baloney, and seems to be true — so today, we're going to look deep into the black heart of performance enhancing drugs. (Full disclosure: I'm high on Ginkgo Biloba, which is like The Clear for radio producers.)

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What, exactly, are the laws being broken, when it comes to the doping?

Sent by John Montgomery, Redding, CA | 2:12 PM | 10-9-2007

So many athletes keep quite about who is using illigal drugs, even when they has been caught using... It would be great if Mr. Papp would let us know who his "team mate" was, who made the suggestion to see a doctor. It's hard to listen to a cheat, who's not helping to change the current problem.

Sent by Joel Brown | 2:22 PM | 10-9-2007

ersal testing. "If you play, you pee." Period. No exceptions, no lame excuses, no play without a test. Period. Why isn't this done? With the billions of dollars earned and riding on the outcome of athletic competitions, surely some small percentage of it could go to see this happen. So?

Sent by Richard Adams | 2:35 PM | 10-9-2007

Michael Rasmussen was tested, and tested clean, yet he was made the subject of such a scandal that his team was forced to fire him. Double World Champion Paolo Bettini was the subject of innuendo in the press, and the German hosts of the 2007 Worlds threatened to exclude him for it. The list goes on.

I hope the conversation on doping includes some discussion of the workings of the anti-doping agencies. I'm no apologist for athletes who use performance-enhancing drugs, but the way athletes--particularly cyclists--are treated by WADA, the labs, the sporting governments, race organizers and the media is scandalous. Innuendos and leaked lab results violate athletes' rights. It should be easy enough for anti-doping agencies to be principled in their roles, but they're often anti-doping crusaders, instead.

The conflicting business interests of race organizers (such as ASO of the Tour de France), the UCI, team sponsors, WADA and the labs are muddying the issue. They've used the doping scandal against each other, using the athletes as pawns.

We should show a little more skepticism when WADA's Dick Pound makes a blanket statement about doping, when a race organizer makes a statement about a rider, or when a lab leaks results of a non-negative test.

Sent by Reuben Smith | 2:37 PM | 10-9-2007

I am wondering how many triathletes, pro and amateur, are doping. I have done 4 ironman triathlons hoping to qualify for Hawaii, but the qualifiying times keep getting faster and faster. Sometimes I wonder if I should keep trying if my fellow competitors may not clean.

Sent by Jerry | 2:42 PM | 10-9-2007

Talk of the nation, my butt. Victor Conte got to paint himself as a repentant sinner on the radio, but was spared accountability by the show from the people whose comments it purports to value.
As it is, Conte continues to profit from his image of a "purveyor to the stars" of extremely effective performance-enhancing drugs: he promotes himself in the products he sells- he photographs himself, with a bass guitar slung around his neck, barbells in his hands, and a ZMA hat on his head, and puts that photo on the labels of the nutritional supplements (no doubt legal now) that he continues to sell. Yet TOTN allowed him to self-promote on their time without facing a SINGLE CALL from the American public. In my mind, that's a direct violation of the principles they claim.

Sent by Dirk VandePol | 2:46 PM | 10-9-2007

Texas University Interscholastic League (UIL) begins random testing in the next few days for steroids in high school kids. This is from their website:

http://www.uil.utexas.edu/athletics/health/steroid_information.html

On Sunday, it was reported that they believe that they can begin testing by the end of October.

Sent by John Halloran | 2:46 PM | 10-9-2007

Let's all face the facts. Athletes dope for some combination of ego/money. It starts way before they are elite athletes, and more athletes are involved than most people would care to know. This includes are most beloved athletes as well. We can't assume because one athlete tests positive and "gets caught" that the testing policies are fair, accurate, and just. Most people simply don't care that much about this issue, at least not enough to stop purchasing sports related products. Testing is costly and contest organizers simply don't care to spend the required cash to remedy the problem. Athletes have been using sports enhancing drugs since sports began. I think we should either allow anything or impose iron clad testing. This would mean facing the truth, and that's hard for all of us to do.

Sent by Mark Regis | 2:54 PM | 10-9-2007

Yes, the darling (or one of) the Sydney Olympics has fallen from grace. Interestingly, two of her relay teammates and another racer who came in second to Marion have already admitted using drugs. Wow, it's an epidemic. Lack of personal character and integrity leads, at least in part, to irresponsible behavior...like cheating. Where are their parents? At lease Marion didn't try to play the race card like Barry Bonds.

Sent by Mike | 3:10 PM | 10-9-2007

I turned over all of the pertinent, detailed information that I had about doping in the USA and abroad to the relevant authorities. Making public accusations of performance enhancing drug use against other athletes would only serve to negate the benefit of the evidence I provided...

Sent by Joe Papp | 5:02 PM | 10-9-2007

I was struck by today's show when both a caller and the interviewee mentioned how pervasive PEDs are- the latter mentioning that the culture seems to feel it is "no big deal." It reminded me of a book I purchased years ago published in 1998 that had a comment on steroids regarding health effects:

...Unfortunately, the media have blown things way out of proportion. Yes, some users develop problems, but the vast majority do not. This not so much our opinion as what the medical evidence says. As of this writing there are no large-sample, long-term studies that compare the health of users with nonusers. Everything negative you hear about steroids is based on a few case studies.

I find this quote very revealing. IMO, regardless of whether the majority of people get sick off it or not, I kinda wish there were two versions of sports now, one where those who choose no to juice can play together and those who choose to juice compete against each other and they're kept separated. Why wouldn't someone want to see how far they can go without the need for drugs?

Sent by Lisa | 6:28 PM | 10-9-2007

Joe Papp was never a professional cyclist. Most of us are not sure why he continues to promote himself as such. With this latest escapade of "coming clean" after using performance enhancing drugs, he has sank to a new low...even for him. Incredible. Please stop giving him airtime, or at least ask him what professional team he rode for (none) and why he considers himself an expert.

Sent by Frankie | 8:54 PM | 10-9-2007

If athletics is to survive in any kind of "pure" form radical steps against doping must be taken. Illegal or not, it's wrong and amounts to cheating. Cheaters should be banned and their "accomplishments" should be annulled.

Sent by Stephen Garfield | 9:47 PM | 10-9-2007

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